The walls along the hallway up to the Peirene office are plastered with handwritten posters.
‘Men are beautiful.’
‘Men are smart and intelligent.’
‘Men constitute half of the human race. Treat them with respect.’
‘Men aren’t workhorses.’
‘Men have rights.’
‘Men need weekends.’
In between the posters, photos of men of all colour, ages and shapes have been hung. And when I enter the office, Peirene greets me wearing a big ginger bread heart around her neck: ‘I love men.’
I ignore her. I’ve been working ten days without a break – editing The Cut, attending the London Bookfair, and updating the accounts – and I have another busy week ahead. I don’t fancy wasting my time with some Nymph’s gimmick. I turn on my computer and settle down to work.
‘It’s Man Awareness Day in this office today,’ I hear Peirene eventually say.
‘I noticed,’ I reply dryly.
‘Don’t you want to know why?’ she enquires after another pause.
I shrug my shoulders without lifting my eyes off the screen. ‘Go on then.’ I know that she will tell my anyway.
‘It’s for your benefit,’ she announces. ‘Your treatment of men have lately been alarming. I worry that human rights organisations might soon be knocking on our door.’
I turn to her in amazement. I’m not aware that I have mistreated anyone.
‘I don’t want to list all your misdemeanours. It is enough to draw your attention to the two most recent. First you compel Anthony to write The Cut in record time – showing absolutely no mercy – he probably hasn’t slept for the last two weeks. And then on Saturday morning you woke up your husband at 8am and made him compile the royalty statements for the next 36 hours. The poor, poor man!’
‘But he wanted to help me,’ I defend myself. ‘We do the royalty statements together each year.’
‘Does he have a choice? Would you be happy if he’d say no?’
I shake my head.
‘There you go!’ The Nymph clearly feels she has landed a knock-out punch.
‘So, what do you suggest I should do from now on?’
‘Be nicer to men.’
‘So are you going to do the royalty statements with me next time?’ I smile, intrigued to hear Peirene’s reply.
‘Me?’ She suddenly turns pale, hesitates for a moment. ‘Well… I’m not sure I’m as good with spreadsheets as your husband… so maybe … he should carry on.’ Then she rallies ‘But that makes Man Awareness Day even more important. If we want them to help us we need to make them feel special.’
I can see this point. She carries on.
‘And today our favourite men will receive a ginger-bread heart as a reward. But perhaps we could start by tasting them ourselves.’ She breaks one in half . ‘I baked them myself. They’re delicious.’
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by Nico Kaiser, creative commons.
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 20 March 2017